Heavy Feather Review: Hillary Leftwich Reviews Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities

Reviews mean so much to writers, especially to Indie writers, so I’m so grateful to Hillary Leftwich and Heavy Feather Review for this gorgeous review of Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities–THANK YOU!

mad v

Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities, by Nancy Stohlman. Boston, Massachusetts: Big Table Publishing, October 2018. 104 pages. $15.00, paper.

Excerpt: “If you’ve ever stood and stared at yourself in a funhouse mirror and saw yourself as someone you don’t recognize, distorted or with two faces, then you have a pretty good idea of how Stohlman’s latest collection of oddities takes you through the gambit of freakshow possibilities in each of her stories. Stohlman, a performer herself, speaks of a childhood growing up with a circus clown for a mother and a father who seems to be obsessed with placing in the Guinness Book of World Records for various silly attempts.

Although the obvious thread connecting these stories together seems to be Stohlman’s quirky, clown-angst teenage years followed by confusing adulthood scenes, there’s another side to this thread that runs parallel to this theme. Much like the two-faced lady or the conjoined twins, Stohlman seems to be running alongside of her twin from another dimension, a more popular, put together version. But with anything that reflects bigger, better, and brighter, Stohlman summons emotions in each piece that can’t be blurred or escaped from. That’s what makes this mixed bag of oddities about as real as it can get.

Keep reading on Heavy Feather Review here

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Review of The Monster Opera on Colorado Drama.com

The Monster Opera

by Bob Bows

Every year at this time, we conjure monsters of all sorts to give ourselves a good fright and an excuse to indulge ourselves in gobs of refined sugar—which often turn out to be the same thing—but rarely does anyone give these ghoulish spirits their proper dramatic due.

Erik Wilkins as Libretto Santiago and Nancy Stohlman as Ursula Leonard
Erik Wilkins as Libretto Santiago
and Nancy Stohlman as Ursula Leonard

So, what better way to exalt our resident monsters than to present them in operatic form, as is so melodramatically accomplished in this delightful mashup, with book by Nancy Stohlman and score by Nick Busheff.

Composer Nick Busheff
Composer Nick Busheff

In search of a scary plot for their next opera, Ursula Leonard (Stohlman), with the assent of her husband Hugo (Toby Smith), agree that she should go to Mexico City, where she discovers the hidden dark secret of Libretto (Erik Wilkins) and Magdelena Santiago (Marta Burton), once renowned opera singers.As the story grows inside of Ursula, so do the repercussions of the Santiagos’ sinister doings, until we arrive at a suitably horrific dilemma.

Marta Burton as Magdelena Santiago and Jonathan Montgomery as The Critic
Marta Burton as Magdelena Santiago
and Jonathan Montgomery as The Critic

Stohlman’s narrative and dialogue deftly dances away from pinpointing the source and nature of the evil running through the story, leaving that to our imaginations. Busheff’s score is a masterwork of haunting tunes and unnerving atmospherics that amplify the unfolding horrors. Wilkins’ and Burton’s operatic riffs are compelling and, in Burton’s case, intentionally hilarious.The Monster Opera will return next Halloween.

Bob Bows

– See more at: http://coloradodrama.com/monster_opera.html#sthash.gT1ZwVyP.dpuf

Matthew J. Hall’s review in Screaming With Brevity

Screaming with Brevity

POETRY ¦ FICTION ¦ REVIEWS

A Review: The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories by Nancy Stohlman

Nancy StohlmanIt has been suggested that the popular trend of Flash Fiction is largely due to lazy readers and busy lives. Nancy Stohlman’s The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories is a collection of Flash Fiction where the content justifies and even defends its own form. Here is an author who truly understands what it means to strip a story down to its essential elements. While this style of writing may be well suited to those with a limited attention span, or the modern individual whose hectic schedule refuses to make allowances for art – this book is far more than an exercise in saving time and effort. Furthermore, this carefully crafted set of stories is too engaging to be fobbed off as part of a popular trend; these shorts are a perfectly balanced mix of humour, irreverence, absurdity and an occasional touch of pathos.

As the title suggests, the book has two themes running through the collection. There are various well-known biblical tales, told from a somewhat humanistic perspective. Stohlman’s tongue in cheek humour is restrained and subtle. While she clearly relishes the odd dalliance with irreverence, only a fanatic would describe these stories as blasphemous. In the story, Annunciation, we are introduced to the mother of Christ as a wholly relatable character. In Lazarus, we find poor-old Lazarus wondering what to do with his second shot at life. Perhaps the best of the bunch – in terms of saying more with less – is the story, Jonah. In the space of two sentences the classic yarn is turned on its head with a rare treat of sarcastic, self-mocking brevity.

The second theme, and perhaps the stronger of the two, is the vixen – the female fox. The strange story of The Fox is essentially a love story, but it is one you won’t have read before. Told in seven, sensual instalments throughout the book, The Fox ruminates on age-old human experience, within a uniquely new and rather absurd concept.

Outside of the two themes some of the subject matter delves into fairly dark territory, but never becomes uncomfortable or sinister; and there is absurdity aplenty. Some of these stories could be described as slightly quirky, whereas others are downright bizarre. The socially awkward penis, an affair with a cardboard cut-out, a miniature version of the boyfriend who fits neatly in the inner pocket of a purse and a literal meeting with the younger self are some of many unlikely scenarios that could easily have slipped into irritating silliness in less capable hands. Fortunately, Stohlman steers clear from those qualities one might associate with bizarro fiction; that is to say that all of these smoke-long tales make sense and have a purpose.

The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories is a thoroughly entertaining trove of laughter. More importantly, it pokes fun at the human experience without trivializing it. There are moments of unabashed joy and mountains of broken sadness. There is hopeful longing and spiteful loathing and its surrealism is built on a foundation of realism. Nancy Stohlman is a writer who understands the power of silence and knows how to scream with brevity. Buy your copy of The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories from Amazon in paperback or Kindle here.

Matthew J. Hall

Matthew J. Hall

An avid reader, writer and reviewer of poetry and short fiction. Author of self-published poetry collections From the Depths and Through the Madness (May 2013), Play the Sad Violin (July 2013) and In the Bleak Hours (October 2013). Most recent chapbook, Pigeons and Peace Doves will be available through Blood Pudding Press June 2015.

Skylight Press Review: “A Few Strange New Hybridities in Literature”

Vixen ScreamThe Vixen Scream & Other Bible Stories by Nancy Stohlman
(Pure Slush Books)

As I have found out for myself, there are no limits to what a mixilating group of short stories can become. A veritable championer of Flash Fiction, Nancy Stohlman embarks upon a strange and irreverent series to situate the reader with death-row volunteers, stewardesses, Avon-lady stalkers, magicians and homunculi just for starters. There are some flashes to be sure but these stories aren’t mere formal reductions or glib plot encapsulations come about by editorial stripping. This is a strange and enticing grouping of vignettes where skeletal structure is ruled by omission or by the vague projections of causality. We traverse momentary realms from the surreal to the absurd to the mythopoetic, often propped up by illogical scaffolding or some labyrinthine state of limbo. There are hints of Kafka, Hoffman, Borges – even more contemporary types like Jonathan Carroll or Angela Carter perhaps. But among these twisted miniatures runs two seams that hint at some totalizing purpose; the first being a set of blasphemous biblical paraphrases and the second offering the on-going presence of the Red Fox. This is an odd and intriguing juxtaposition but the returning fox, although via unconventional treatments, seems to offer the same totemic reverence often found in Native American and Scandinavian myths. So often cast as the trickster, and here infiltrating a world of literary tricks, the presence, although tragic, is a grounding one.

Read whole article including other reviews from Skylight Press here

Review of “Vixen Scream” in Boston Literary Magazine

   vixen cover finalThe Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories
       Nancy Stohlman
Pure Slush Books 2014
*
 How much are you getting paid to do this, he asks, a
crease in his forehead.
Enough to pay off my loans, I said as he begins to tattoo
the Coca-Colo logo across my face.
~ “Indentured”
These delectable shorts from Nancy Stohlman are sassy, sophisticated, sometimes sweetly naive, and always brilliantly ironic. From the woman who hugs inmates on death row and the sexy homunculus, to the pawned boyfriend, the missing penis, and the mermaid who is no longer a mermaid, we are scooped up and taken to the craziest, zaniest, most unimaginably strange places; and yet in each place you find human-ness… tender vulnerability, the need to please, or at least understand.
*
Do you feel old now? she asked.
I shrugged. Do you feel young?
We shared a soda as the Midwest rolled by.
~ “I Met My 20-Year Old Self in the Lounge Car of the Amtrak”
*
And then, of course, there is the fox… seductive, mysterious… the vulpes vulpes marking its territory with urine, its anal glands smelling of violets. Who can resist? Not you, if you read even one of the stories in this absolutely top-notch collection.Read original here

Nancy Stohlman Proves You Can Tell a Story in Under 1,000 Words

Nancy.jpg
Courtesy Nancy Stohlman
Nancy Stoholman works exclusively in flash fiction, stories under a thousand words.

Writer Nancy Stohlman doesn’t need a lot of words to make an impact. In fact, she needs fewer than a thousand.

Stohlman has spent the last few years championing flash fiction, stories told in under 1,000 words. She will release her new solo anthology of flash fiction, The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories, on Wednesday, November 12 at the Mercury Café as part of the Fbomb Flash Fiction Reading Series.

nancybook.jpg
Courtesy Nancy Stohlman
The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories is Nancy Stohlman’s first solo flash-fiction anthology.

“What isn’t said is just as powerful as what is said,” Stohlman says. “I love playing with silence and absence. A lot of what we leave out is the back story, and we just drop the reader into the present, the moment. We choose description very carefully: Instead of having a vase with 25 roses, we have only one rose.”

At first, Stohlman says she struggled with flash fiction. But through time she learned the difference between the meat and the fat, and she began to find the essence of her story.

“I think as writers, we get trained to languish in our own words,” she says. “We want to spend a paragraph describing how the tree caught the light. We indulge ourselves in a way that makes us feel good — but maybe not the reader. Rather than spell everything out for the reader, I implicate them and make them more invested in the story.”

Although Stohlman says long novels still have their place, she wonders how Moby Dick would be different with modern-day tools.

“When a writer wrote those novels in the past, they didn’t have a word processor or typewriter,” Stohlman points out. “The editing was a lot different. When these stories were being written there were a lot less entertainment options; no one was in a rush to get to the end. And now I wonder if those stories would have end up differently.

“I see those novels as a mark of time and preference. I think it’s a gorgeous thing to go on a long journey, just as it is going on a short journey. But I think flash fiction is just as interesting in a different way. When you enter a story and get to the end all in one sitting, you get the entire ride at once.”

To show the power of short-form writing, Stohlman cites the legend of Ernest Hemingway sitting in a bar one evening, when someone bet him he couldn’t write a story in six words. Hemingway supposedly replied with this: “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.” That’s a story she could think about for years, Stohlman says, and it’s only six words.

“People think it’s popular because people are in a hurry,” she says. “There is some truth to that, but the reason flash fiction has lasted is because they’re really complex little nuggets. I think the short ride ends up being just as transformative.”

She has written novels in the past; she likens that process to being in a marriage. With flash fiction, she strives to get the first draft out in one sitting, so she can return to it later — like a one-night stand that turns into a relationship. Her stories may be short, but she still labors over them.

In Stohlman’s new book, published by Pure Slush Press, she draws inspiration from dreams and Bible stories. Her book is full of bizarre, surreal tales, including stories about a woman turning into a piano and a woman falling in love with a fox. And even though the stories come in short bursts, Stohlman does revisit the same characters throughout, creating plot development. But if you’re hoping that Stohlman will extend a single story beyond a thousand words, don’t hold your breath. She says when we try to answer too many questions, we take away the beautiful mystery of art.

“I get attached to my stories, but I’m afraid to ruin them,” she says. “For example, I just saw the latest Planet of the Apes, and the more back story you give me, the more it changes the original. There were so many unanswered questions we had to accept. Sometimes over-answering the questions waters down the experience. I don’t want to ruin the perfect snapshot.”

See Nancy Stohlman at 7 p.m. at the Mercury Café, when she’ll be reading from her new book. The event is free; for more information, call 303-294-9258.

Follow Amanda Moutinho on Twitter at @amandamoutinho.